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Woman begins new chapter after fire

BOARDMAN — After facing her biggest fear, Boardman resident Kasey McDade said she has realized something about herself: “I’m stronger than I thought.”

McDade was displaced after a fire broke out at the London Square Apartments on Rockdale Avenue in Boardman on Wednesday.

She was walking her dog, a German shepherd-boxer mix named Stewie, when she noticed smoke coming out of the neighboring unit.

“My biggest fear always has been I would be at work and my dog” would be home alone while a fire would break out, she previously told The Vindicator.

In a time of the year when most people are working on their New Year’s resolutions, McDade, 27, is starting to rebuild her life after most of her belongings were scorched or damaged by water and smoke.

“Everyone’s trying to keep the positivity,” McDade said, noting that strangers, friends and family have been sending encouragement by telling her it’s a bad way to start the year, but it’s a completely fresh start.

McDade said she’s found that because of the emotions and investigative questions, she’s lost track of time. Trying to respond to everyone, she’s been turning off her phone at night to make sure she gets rest.

Having lived at No. 9 in the London Square Apartments for several years before the fire, McDade said that it was her first place on her own.

“I was proud of it. It’s why you wake up in the morning, go to work.”

She’s left herself asking why she worked so hard to build a life with Stewie, only to have it taken away. “It’s hard, not knowing,” she said.

McDade said the moment she saw the fire she felt a loss of control.

“Honestly, I don’t know that you can put it into words. I’ll never forget those two feelings of seeing the fire and going back in.”

While McDade was walking Stewie on Wednesday, she said she saw her neighbor, Eve Heim-Hagen, open the door to her apartment, No. 8, and noticed an interior wall “engulfed” in flames.

She immediately ran into her own apartment to get car keys, her phone and her purse.

Knowing there were oxygen tanks inside the apartment that was on fire, McDade concentrated on calling 911 and getting as far from the fire as possible, knowing that the tanks would explode.

While on the phone with 911, McDade said she arrived at the property manager’s unit and heard explosions.

Nothing was on fire when she ran back inside her apartment, but she noticed heat radiating from next door. Looking around to make sure she had her essentials and Stewie, McDade said she thought, “OK. Here we go.”

Once the fire department extinguished the blaze and secured the building, they walked McDade through her apartment to gather any belongings that could be salvaged.

To help McDade reclaim her life, two fellow 2010 graduates from South Range High School have started a GoFundMe.com page.

“It was definitely a shock,” she said, expressing gratitude to her former classmates.

McDade discovered the page Wednesday night as she looked online for articles on the fire. “I didn’t even know it was there. They just stepped up and made it.”

As of Friday afternoon, $1,585 was raised against a goal of $5,000.

One of the women, Carissa Benchwick, responded to an email request stating that she’s “just a peer from (McDade’s) graduation class at South Range.”

According to the site, the other woman, Jenna Proverbs, saw on social media that McDade lost everything in the fire, and “immediately” worked with Benchwick to organize the campaign.

The community support has been emotional for McDade.

“I’ve been crying nonstop. There are so many emotions,” she said, adding that though a lot of people struggle with self-worth, she has friends, family and the community around her showing they care.

The situation also has humbled McDade a bit, too, she said.

“I know I’ve always been the kind of person to give the shirt off my back… But I never once even thought of having it in return. To be on the opposite end” is different, McDade said.

She’s gotten messages through social media from strangers, offering appliances to a cup of coffee and a sympathetic ear.

One woman told McDade that although she doesn’t have anything to offer, she’s sending McDade a scratch-off lottery ticket with the hopes of it having a good prize

“You name it,” she’s been offered it, McDade said.

In the meantime, McDade is staying with her mother, Evangeline, while taking everything day by day. “I don’t know what I’m supposed to do next.”

Heim-Hagen, 53, was transported to the MetroHealth system in Cleveland from St. Elizabeth Youngstown Hospital, Boardman fire Chief Mark Pitzer said. She suffered first- and second-degree burns to her upper body and was breathing with medical assistance. Her condition was not confirmed at press time Friday.

afox@tribtoday.com

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